Since February, members of several first nations and their supporters have been occupying an area of national forest land in Arizona known as Oak Flat. This land is one of the Apache Nation’s most holy ancient sites where sacred traditions including coming of age ceremonies and burial rites have been practiced for many generations before. At the end of last year Oak Flat was transferred to a mining company in a backdoor land swap deal organized by senator John McCain. The rider was snuck into an unrelated must-pass national defense bill just one hour before being approved by congress to prevent public scrutiny over the prevision. The nature of this land transfer is very unusual even before you consider that the beneficiary is a foreign corporation. This land has been given special protection since 1955 and is currently listed as one of the 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Conservation. Even President Richard Nixon specifically banned mining here, which is saying something.
“Look at all the mines here already,”- Wendsler Nosie Sr., an Apache elder and former tribal chairman said. “Look at all the things they took from us. Seventy percent unemployment, that already tells you where it's going. It's not going to benefit anybody here. What's going to be left is contamination.”
The mining company will employ a cheaper method called block cave mining which will leave in place of the sacred site a giant crater in the ground two miles wide as well as a 7,000-acre, 500-foot-high waste dump of toxic tailings.
The Political charade of concern mandates an environmental review, but the bureaucracy and verbiage of the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, which authorized the land swap, ensures that the company ultimately will get the land regardless of what the study shows.
A closer look into the Apache Stronghold movement, nicely portrayed by a mainstream media source:
The Apache Stronghold has convoyed across the country and after weeks on the road, meeting with other tribes, talking at churches and community centers, and sharing the stage with one of the world's most iconic rebel rockers: Nosie is optimistic. "People are finally waking up to this dirty deal," he says. "We believe there's conscience in America, and we decided to take our fight on the road to reach out to the power of this country. And the power's not Congress. It's the people."
Honoring their Native Traditions In the Face of Overwhelming Odds, these are some of the voices Waiting to be heard.
“Indigenous people aren’t dust under the carpet, they can’t keep pretending we’ve been swept away and don’t exist,” said 16-year old San Carlos Apache member Naelyn Pike. “I know they can hear us and they’re watching,” Naelyn continued, “when we walked here from the White House, we were followed by the CIA, the police, and undercover people…they were afraid of us.”
A bill recently introduced by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is Crafted To repeal the section of the 2015 defense bill that stipulates the land exchange.
The bipartisan bill states H.R. 2811 introduced by Grijalva and 12 co-sponsors states:
“As a result of previous Federal land policies that resulted in the significant loss of lands of American Indian tribes, many sacred areas of tribes are now located on Federal lands. The United States has a trust responsibility acknowledged by Congress to protect tribal sacred areas on Federal lands. [The deal] sets dangerous legislative precedent for the lack of protection of tribal sacred areas located on Federal lands … [and] will require significant amounts of water that will likely affect the local hydrology, including the underlying aquifer, and will result in polluted water that will seep into drinking water supplies.”
Please take the opportunity to write or call your representative in Congress in support of Grijalva’s bill, H.R. 2811.
There are currently several petitions you can sign to add your voice to this cause. They are listed below in descending order of impact:
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition petition
You can keep up to date with the movement to save Oak Flat on these social media pages:
Apache Stronghold Facebook page (most active)
Saving Oak Flat Facebook page
Indigenous Environmental Network
I also invite you to reach out to Wendsler Nosie Sr. and the Apache Stronghold directly. Donations given to these individuals will have monumental impact as they continue to occupy the Oak Flat.
This article was lovingly Collated by Shaun for your empowering discretion.